Clement Scott

Pillars of Society ved Opera Comique Theatre anmeldt av Clement Scott i The Daily Telegraph i London 18. juli 1889 (No. 10,658).


Ibsens «Pillars of Society» is certainly the most plausible and, in a measure, the most interesting of his published plays. There is no offence in it. In the hands of anyone who wrote for the English stage, and not wholly for students, submitted to any competent dramatist who understood the conditions of our theatre and the habits of our people, it might have become a very useful, wholesome, and serviceable work. But the zeal of the Ibsenites has outrun their discretion. They believe that «the master» is too sacred to be touched; they prate and wag their serious heads over «Ibsens gospel»; they picture him as an evangelist rather than as a practical, common-sense, business dramatist. They would not alter a comma, cross a «t,» or dot an «i» of his inspired work; and the consequence is that an audience of average intellect, instead of being honestly pleased, excited, and stimulated, is profoundly bored and necessarily depressed.

A sensible stage manager would have made short work of Ibsens always thoughtful, always earnest, text. It may do very well for Norway or Sweden or Berlin or Scandinavia or the Fatherland, but unfortunately it does not do unedited for England. Amidst the valuable stage material there is an intolerable deal of pedantry and mere verbiage. Had the sacred Sardou for even he is sacred to Frenchmen been translated as Ibsen has been translated in «The Pillars,» his «Dora» («Diplomacy») would not have run one week. Sardou raved, and tore his hair, and vowed vengeance on the wretched adaptors, and held them up to eternal execration; but Sardou pocketed his fees, and his excellent work was popularised in England, and thousands earned a delightful evening. And so they might yet with «The Pillars of Society,» if only Mr. Archer and his friends would come out of the study and go on the stage, if they would learn the practical as well as the literary business of a dramatist, if they would understand that it is a foolish thing to send an audience to sleep, if they would run their pens through those tedious tirades about «communities» and «society,» and theories and sermons, which have nothing on earth to do with the story or development of characters, but retard the action and make the people groan inwardly. Better English literature modern play never had. In distant Scandinavia and longwinded Germany they may love this interminable talk; they may love to sit over it as they do their «beer parliaments» and «coffee scandals;» but here we like to come to the point; here there is no time to cut anything to waste; here we must come to Hecuba, «cut the cackle and come to the osses.» It is sad that it should be so, but so it is.

Mr. William Archer is quite right when he insists that plays should be written to be read as well as acted. The poet should not be banished from the boards. Plays to please and influence, however, are not written in the solitude of the chamber, or by the light of the midnight oil, but at the prompters desk, with a T-light illuminating the ghastly and deserted playhouse. The dramatist who shudders at these conditions will never be popular. He will not understand his business. All dramatists have had to learn this disagreeable fact, from Shakespeare to Sardou, and if Ibsen wants his «gospel» to be heard on the highways and byways he had better get out of the study, and go on the stage to superintend a rehearsal. We arise from a perusal in the study of «The Pillars of Society» with a profound belief in its dramatic excellence. The more the dramatist talks the more we like him. He cannot talk too much in the study. He is a companion and a friend. We are attached to Lona, and admire her spirit and self-sacrifice. We can feel every beat of Consul Bernicks heart, understand his temptation, appreciate his mental agony. We picture Martha as one of the loveliest characters in dramatic fiction a noble woman rightly planned, and so she is because the author built her so. We picture the scene; we have lived in the «community»; every human being on the canvas is familiar to us. We arise from the book excited, impressed, our imagination tingling; the whole thing transparent, clear, convincing. But what a difference when we arise from the contemplation of the play! The whole thing is altered, deformed, misrepresented, debased, not from any fault of the actors, but simply because the literary dramatist has not thoroughly mastered the technique of the stage. The Lona who was such a grand study in the book is comparatively effaced. The high-minded, self-sacrificing women are wearisome bores. The almost divine Martha is a youthful Mrs. Gummidge, always whining and looking out to sea. The human, pulsating Bernick is laughed at for the very sentiments that should wring tears of blood from the heart. The play that was peaceful in the study is restless on the stage. The people we loved make us yawn. The sentiments we clung to make us laugh. The scene we realised becomes paltry and trivial; the township we lived in is nothing like what we imagined; the people who were part and parcel of ourselves yesterday are dismal lay figures and dummies to-day. Why is this? Is it because Ibsen is not a dramatist? No. Is it because the acting is insufficient and incomplete? No. Is it because the translator has failed in his duty? No, for Mr. Archers translation and his mere words must be as great a treat to speak on the stage as they are to listen to in the stalls. It is because Ibsen has not mastered the technical difficulties of his position as a dramatist, not for one country, but for all countries. It is because the Ibsenite enthusiasts will not allow their «master» to be adapted for our amusement, but insist upon translating him for our everlasting boredom.

All praise to the artists for what they did. Neither Ibsen nor Mr. Archer can complain of one of them. But they fought against conditions that must have outraged their instinct. They knew, one and all, that «The Pillars of Society» should, with all its cleverness, have been adapted to the conditions of the English stage, not translated for the study. They knew where it failed, where the action halted, where the dialogue was excessive, where it should have been compressed. Artists like Miss Genevieve Ward, who gave such a fine reading of Lona, and Mr. W. H. Vernon, who made a deep and sincere impression as Bernick, knew exactly where the play should have been «cut,» not for the sake of hurting Ibsens vanity, but for the sake of promulgating the only dramatic «gospel» we know the gospel of a good and interesting play. The force and good-nature, the power and the tenderness of Miss Wards Lona will long be remembered, and so will the Bernick of Mr. Vernon, who in the scene of accusation, where the strong man reels and totters under the thunderclap of conscience, was honestly fine. Always in the picture, always the man, here he became a vivid artist. Amidst much that was so good there was one quite faultless performance, the Foreman Aune of Mr. Arthur Wood, a personation which for absolute truth, artistic discipline, and reticence will long live in the memory. Excellent work was shown by Mr. Grahame, Mr. Beauchamp, Mr. E. Hendrie, Mr. G. Canninge, and especially Mrs. Dawes, quite admirable, Miss Annie Irish, and Miss Fanny Robertson. Miss Vera Beringer, who took a benefit on this occasion, made a capital little Olaf, natural, impulsive, lovable, and distinct. He had one dangerous line to say at the close to the effect that he did not want to be a «Pillar of Society,» which might have excited the ridicule of an ordinary pit. As it was the people filed out into the wet Strand perplexed, half-weary, astonished, impressed, but as yet not wholly converted to Ibsen, even at his best. They could not quite understand the «communities» and the society chatter, and the ceaseless allusions to the «Indian girl,» the «Palm Tree,» and the alliteratively-named Dina Dorf. In fact, one of the audience, earnest and anxious for conversion, was found playing with her fingers in the passages, and babbling, in memory of childhoods days:
«Ina, Dina, Dina Dorf,
Kattler Wheeler, Wila Worf»;
and even Ibsen himself would not understand this reminiscence of the British nursery!
Publisert 3. apr. 2018 13:44 - Sist endret 3. apr. 2018 13:44